Romancing the Sea: Endless Options for Couples

Most major cruise lines have a range of wedding and honeymoon packages for couples. // Photo: Getty Images

Whether cruisers are on a romantic getaway, their honeymoon or heading to a special anniversary, vow renewal or destination wedding, an oceangoing cruise can be the ultimate romantic destination, offering endless options and benefits for the happy couple. 

“Couples can opt to get married before departure at the port of embarkation, aboard ship by the captain [on certain lines] or on the beach or at other spectacular settings in certain ports of call,” says Charles Sylvia, vice president, industry and trade relations, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). Top benefits? Sylvia cites significant cost savings and value. 

Wedding Packages

Most major cruise lines have a range of wedding packages for couples. Couples who get married on the ship in port on embarkation day often are permitted to bring non-sailing guests. In a pricing example, Carnival Cruise Line has different plans starting at $1,499 for an “Intimate Ceremony” package and ceremony with up to 10 guests (including the couple). A bit higher “Grand Ceremony” package is also available. 

For up to 20 guests and many additional perks, the couple can choose the Carnival "Classic Diamond" package, starting at $3,099. While Carnival does allow up to 50 non-sailing guests to attend an onboard wedding in port on embarkation day, there is an added cost for arrangements. 

So, what’s included with a cruise line’s onboard wedding package? With Carnival’s "Classic Diamond" package, accommodating a minimum of 20 guests, including bride and groom, the couple receives services of a pre-cruise wedding planner, a private venue, 15- to 20-minute ceremony, a local officiant, three-tier cake, wine toast with Moët & Chandon, honeymoon dinner for the couple, pre-recorded ceremony music, photography services, one 16-inch by 20-inch canvas, priority embarkation assistance (for embarkation day weddings only) and service charges with gratuity included.

Also included with the package are a keepsake wedding certificate, enhanced shipboard decorations, an aisle runner, two pillars with silk floral arrangements, silk flower petals on the cake table, a bottle of sparkling wine, complimentary half hour couple’s massage, couple’s continental breakfast, including mimosas, keepsake silk floral bridal bouquet and boutonniere, chocolate-covered strawberries delivered to couple’s stateroom, complimentary couples’ bathrobes to use during the stay, a keepsake wedding topping and more. For more information, visit www.carnival.com.

“When a travel advisor shares with clients all that’s included — ceremony, flowers, bar, hors d’oeuvres, dinner, cake, photography — it becomes clear that a cruise offers tremendous value for the dollar,” emphasizes Sylvia, who adds that beyond the economic benefit, the service onboard a cruise ship, the hotel product, including food and beverage options (such as specialty dining and high-quality cuisine) and access to event staff  “rivals anything available on land.”

Another option is that some or all members of the wedding party or family/friends may choose to sail on the voyage itself. For the couple, “the unique benefit of tying the knot before or during a cruise is having the option to sail with the wedding party, family, and close friends, and share the honeymoon experience with loved ones traveling onboard the ship,” says Sylvia

Royal Caribbean International offers wedding and romance packages, and also promotes its “Vows with a View,” spectacular venues for couples to tie the knot. Depending on the ship, these could include Wonderland, Chop’s Grille, Boleros, Giovanni’s Table, Dazzle’s or Jazz on 4, among others. 

When an advisor books a couple’s wedding onboard a cruise ship, they also establish themselves as that couple’s travel advisor for life. An added perk is that some other family members or friends of the couple for whom the advisor books arrangements may also feel that way. 

“Some travel advisors have become wedding cruise experts and promote themselves as such, which is very smart considering all of the future FIT and group business that can come after booking a successful wedding at sea,” stresses Sylvia. 

Honeymoons at sea are popular, and as with land-based hotel stays, those once-in-a-lifetime honeymoon stays can be upgraded via an online honeymoon registry. So, family and friends can contribute to help the couple secure such perks as a larger stateroom or shore excursions they desire. Royal Caribbean’s registry includes the opportunity to purchase everything from casino/bingo play ($25) to dining at 150 Central Park West ($80) and Elemis Aroma Stone Therapy ($150).

Norwegian Cruise Line’s honeymoon registry is free to set up, features “real” gifts and ideas, so it’s not just a honeymoon fund asking friends for money; gifts can be scheduled and waiting upon arrival. On the wedding side, NCL offers a free premium wedding website including an RSVP tool. 

For honeymooners or anniversary getaways, Celebrity Cruises offers a “Premium Romance Package” for $225, including plush Celebrity robes and slippers, a mimosa breakfast in bed for two, a specialty dining experience, rose petals sprinkled on the bed at turndown, chocolate-dipped strawberries for the couple and a bottle of Perrier Jouët champagne.

For honeymooners, some lines also offer discounts on fares. For example, MSC Cruises offers a 5 percent discount for honeymooners on the regularly quoted fare for interior, outside with partial view and outside with ocean view accommodations, plus a 10 percent discount for the balcony, suite and MSC Yacht Club. Guests also get a surprise in their stateroom. They just must show their marriage certificate when booking with a travel advisor. The offer is not combinable with other offers. 

Whether the advisor is booking a destination wedding, honeymoon, vow renewal or anniversary cruise, or just a romantic getaway for a valued client, there is good revenue potential in romancing the high seas.

How to Plan a Honeymoon Cruise

Windstar Cruises provides these elements to consider when clients start to think about booking a honeymoon cruise.   

Pick the Destination: What factors to consider? Consider the month and destination weather. Select the most appropriate embarkation city, plus the couple’s personal interests and goals when picking an itinerary.

Choose the Date: If couples desire to take a honeymoon cruise immediately after the wedding, the wedding date will help set the cruise date. That said, some couples prefer to wait a few days, weeks or even months for the honeymoon. If so, look at whether off-season or peak-season will work. 

Determine the Cruise Honeymoon Duration: How much time can the couple spend on a honeymoon? What “work factors” are to be considered? How much time can they be “away?" Cruises might range from a few days to more than a month. The goal is to enjoy the start of the couple’s life together and not feel rushed. 

Consider the Departure Port: If clients are flying to the departure city, advocate that they arrive a day early so they won’t have to hurry to get onboard the ship. Consider a pre-cruise departure port as an integral part of the honeymoon. 

Book Shore Excursions: Consider what’s important to both the bride and groom. Read descriptions carefully. Ask for assistance. Also, avoid overbooking shore trips so the couple has some free time to relax. 

Add Extras: Consider such important elements as spa packages, gift packages and laundry services. 

Check out www.windstarcruises.com for more detail.

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